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https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2021/07/13/a-single-sign-on-and-digital-identity-solution-for-government/

A single sign-on and digital identity solution for government

Last month Tom Read, our CEO, wrote about GDS’s strategy for 2021 to 2024. Today, I want to provide an update on our work to build a single sign-on and digital identity solution for government.

The problem

The impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has underlined people's need for swift and easy access to government services. Thanks to GOV.UK, users can already find almost all government services in one place.

But people are still asked to sign in and prove their identity in different ways to access different services. You would need individual usernames and passwords to file your tax return, claim benefits or apply for a driving licence. From our own research we know that many users don't understand the differences between these logins, and are confused about which ones they already have.

Some services need to carry out digital identity checks to make sure the people wanting to access them are who they claim to be. However, people without easy access to official documents, like passports and driving licences, are too often excluded from these simple, online routes. As government services become increasingly digital and accessing in-person ones now often relies on some kind of online interaction (like booking an appointment), it's vital that access is as inclusive as possible.

At the same time, departments delivering government services currently have to build or buy  their own sign-on and identity services, resulting in people having to enter the same information time and again when accessing multiple services. Running multiple systems in this way also leads to added cost to the taxpayer and, because it is hard for different services to share information with each other, reduced capability for government to tackle fraudulent access to its services in a joined-up way.

The solution

There is now a clear consensus – with strong Ministerial support across government – that it's time services are offered a better solution, and people enjoy an easier, more joined-up experience. In March, Minister Lopez set out a vision for "one login for government" and a key action from the recent 'Declaration on Government Reform' policy paper was to "launch a single sign-on for online government services". Meanwhile, the GDS strategy sets out our intention to "create a single sign-on" and "a simple digital identity solution that works for everyone".

We're now working with colleagues across government to develop one simple, secure way for people to sign in and prove who they are. We are focused on reusing the deep expertise we have in government today, not on re-inventing the wheel. We're also working with colleagues across government on a roadmap for migrating existing systems to the new solutions.

Working with teams across government

Building a solution flexible enough to meet the needs of different services and their users requires a cross-government effort. So, we have adopted a collaborative approach and are already working with and learning from experts from more than 30 service teams within central departments – but we’d like to work with more.

After all, this is not a new challenge for government. It is therefore vital that our collective work builds on the many lessons we have collectively learned from products already in use across departments, including GOV.UK Verify.

Joining up with GOV.UK Accounts

All of this work feeds into our vision to provide proactive, personalised and joined-up services on GOV.UK. In her blog post last month, Jen Allum, Director of GOV.UK, shared an update on the role of a GOV.UK Account in personalising users’ experiences and letting people find the information they need to know, when they need to know it, on a device that works for them. Both the digital identity and GOV.UK Account teams are working towards the common goal of developing a more seamless experience of interacting with government.

If your team is interested in working with us, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please drop an email to di-enquiries@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk.

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10 comments

  1. Comment by Kevin posted on

    Great idea and we've been delivering these solutions in the healthcare and social housing sectors for the last 17 years, love to work on this exciting project

    Reply
  2. Comment by Steve Warburton posted on

    This is a huge and exciting undertaking and one we are very happy to be involved in - there are huge gains to be had by citizens and Government alike by delivering on this vision!

    Reply
  3. Comment by Peter posted on

    In short, nothing done other than issuing a statement of intent about a vision.

    Reply
  4. Comment by Phil Buckley posted on

    Martyn this is brilliant news - thank you for the update. Do you have plans for business as well personal users by any chance?

    Reply
    • Replies to Phil Buckley>

      Comment by GDS team posted on

      Hi Phil,

      We're working closely with organisations across government – including HMRC, BEIS, DIT, Companies House and others – to ensure businesses are at the heart of our thinking. As it's rolled out to services, the single sign-on will be available anywhere people sign in – including where they do so to manage a business. Through identity verification, we'll also be able to improve HMG's trust in businesses, which we expect to reduce the burden of due diligence on businesses and the taxpayer.

      Do keep following our blog and get in contact if you have specific questions or use cases you want us to be aware of.

      Thanks,
      The GDS team

      Reply
  5. Comment by Tom Stewart posted on

    Very excited to be part of the journey - excellent stuff.

    Reply
  6. Comment by Liezl posted on

    Are there any timelines on when this will be implemented?
    And is there any work being done on making something similar available for users that access services as part of an organisation?

    Reply
    • Replies to Liezl>

      Comment by GDS team posted on

      Hi Liezl

      Single sign-on will cover users that access services as part of organisations. We are working with a number of services who have this specific requirement currently and would be keen to talk to more. Please get in touch by email!

      Thanks,
      The GDS team

      Reply
  7. Comment by Greg posted on

    Joined up Government services this is what the user needs. Brilliant work.

    Reply

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